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New Prostate Cancer Screening Can Reduce Complications

New Prostate Cancer Screening Can Reduce Complications

In the 1985 comedy Movers & Shakers, writer Herb Derman (Charles Grodin) gets a checkup from his doctor (Sandy Ward) that leaves you wondering just what med school the guy went to: “Your prostate is boggy,” says the physician.

Turns out that vague description isn’t all that more precise than what’s actually touted as the best way to diagnosis prostate cancer. Seems that when PSA (prostate-specific antigen) readings are above normal and a digital rectal exam indicates possible prostate changes that often leads to a multi-sample biopsy, a tough procedure, to check for cancerous cells.

Even when active surveillance (a PSA test every six months and tracking symptoms) or watchful waiting (less aggressive tracking) are the smart move, 1,000,000 prostate biopsies are done in the U.S. annually. From that number, only about 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer are identified.

Since up to 40 percent of those biopsies trigger complications, ranging from soreness to infection to acute urinary retention, you’d think there’d be another way to successfully diagnose prostate cancer. There may be, because we’re learning how to minimize diagnostic difficulties.

A British study offers great news: If men with suspected prostate cancer are given a multi-parametric MRI (MP-MRI), doctors can determine who should have a biopsy and who can adopt a watch and wait plan. (The scan correctly ID’d 93 percent of aggressive cancers as opposed to the standard biopsy finding only 48 percent!) If you’re scheduled for a biopsy, ask your doc about getting the MP-MRI scan first.

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

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